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Breaking down MaSha’s forehand


Originally published on: 26/07/11 09:53

‘How to fire a forehand…’ featured in the May 2011 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Objectives: Take the ball on
Many of the game’s professionals realise the importance of taking time away from their opponents and they try to do this by taking the ball early and on the rise. Notice here how, even though this ball is bouncing relatively high, Maria is making contact inside the baseline. This means her opponent has very little time to recover from their last shot and will find it very hard to be aggressive if they’re out of position.

Preparation: Work those feet
It’s important to get into a good position for every shot in tennis, and it’s particularly challenging for tall players, who tend not to move as well as shorter players who have a lower centre of gravity. At 6ft 2in, Maria Sharapova is a good example of this and she has done a fantastic job here of using lots of small steps to set herself up. All that hard work with the feet means she’s right behind the ball when she’s ready to execute.

Sharapova’s forehand has been the
subject of frequent analysis. Although
she uses a semi-western grip, unlike a lot of players, she starts her backswing with her racket back rather than leading with her elbow.


Key point: She secures her foundation for the shot by placing her right foot down last. This ensures she’s right behind the ball ready for impact.

Her legs are bent slightly and her feet well spaced which gives her the perfect position from which to hit – a slightly open stance so she frees up her right hip allowing her to rotate through the shot, which will help with power.

Key point: Make sure you use your non playing
hand on the forehand to ensure you rotate properly and to help keep you balanced.

She has used her legs to power up and into the shot. This allows her to make contact in the perfect hitting zone, otherwise the ball would have risen too high for her to attack. The wrist has been laid back to create racket head velocity.

Her contact point is out in front, rotation is good but here you can see that the bent elbow forces her to use a lot of forearm, shoulder and upper body to increase the pace along with the racket head speed she has picked up.

As usual, Maria is giving this shot 100 per cent. You can almost hear that trademark grunt! However, her shoulder takes a little too much of the work and pulls her racket a little too quickly across her body, forcing her to over-rotate.

Golden rule: There’s no correct grip to hit the forehand with. Sampras used an Eastern grip and had one of the best forehands ever. Sharapova’s stroke may not be technically perfect,
but it’s been good enough for her to become the world No.1!

This is a more conventional swing finish for Maria as she often ends the swing over her right shoulder. This allows her to hit the ball a little flatter. The energy she creates through the swing wraps her racket as far behind her head as possible.

Key point: I still feel she should have got more bodyweight through the ball – you can tell she hasn’t because when you look at her feet they have barely moved forward from the first picture to the last



Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.